Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Near Death On the Catwalk

OK, I love lighting. Seriously, I think that audio is probably my "A game" but lighting really gets me going. This last week, I was finally approved to go out and get the necessary lighting to meet the bare minimum for the stage. Finally, I have three points of light for each area of the stage, and it made a great improvement, but getting there nearly killed me... literally.

Thursday, I hired a couple of people that I worked with when I did electrics for Gemini Stage and Lighting Company. There is one guy in particular that I used to tell myself that I would never hire again because he was so slow, but every time I needed a couple of electricians for an install, he was the only one available. So I took that as God wanting me to bless this guy. I really like him. I feel for him honestly, because he is getting older in his life, and doesn't have allot to show for it, other than his daughter that just got drafted into the WNBA. At any rate, I have a soft spot for the guy, so I hire him anyway, although I know he is going to talk on his cell phone way too much and complain if I keep him a minute over the four hour mini.

Thursday was no exception, as he had plenty of "business" to take care of on the cell, and he had to leave no later than 12:30. Fortunately I had the help of a lady named Tammy, who totally rocks. She busted her butt the entire time, and when I describe our catwalk in detail later, you will see why. She got most of the lighting hung, which was my goal with the hired guns, and then I was going to do the focus with my volunteers.

I had rehearsal that night, and one of my volunteers wasn't able to make it because of issues with his daughters car. So, another volunteer and I did the focus, which means we couldn't do it right, having one guy in the catwalk, one on the console, and me on the stage conducting the focus. I don't have a remote focus unit which would make things sooooooo much easier.

Basically, I had to turn on all the lights and wing it, and we really did a pretty poor focus, but I knew the lights were pointed in the right direction. They just needed to be sharpened, shuttered, and gelled, so I figured I could knock that out pretty quickly the next day.

I got our worship coordinator to run the console, and we got through the downstage catwalk pretty quickly. It is fairly easy to access the fixtures from there, even though you have to duck under duct work, the steel, and the fire suppression system, which kills your back and neck and makes the job three times more difficult! The upstage though is another story.

My room wasn't designed with production in mind. I was designed with a preacher, choir, and organist in mind. In other words, it sucks pretty much all around. The upstage catwalk is really midstage, which wouldn't be bad if you could actually focus lights downstage, but you can't. In order to do that, you have to put the lights on an extension, and with the color scrollers, those extentions get pretty heavy. Tammy hung the lights in the right spot, but somewhere we got the dmx mixed up, so I basically had to remove the fixtures to get to the color scrollers and readdress the units. Of course it was about 90 degrees in the catwalk, and I was sweating like you wouldn't believe. I didn't have any help since everyone had already gone home, so I was having to fix what I thought was wrong, come out of the catwalk, go to the console, see if it was fixed. If not, go back so that I could fix it again, only to get back to the console to see that the light was out of focus. Literally, this went on for hours!

At about 11 PM, I was getting pretty close, and was ready to gel the downstage catwalk. I have some 10 degrees hung up there for specials, and to get to their barrels without knocking off the focus is very difficult, because once again, our catwalks weren't designed for production. When you have been working all day, you try and think up the quickest way to do things rather than the safest, and many times that is also the dumbest. Rather than taking the barrel off and inserting the gel, which was the safe way, I decided to hang out over the edge to put the gel in, but to do this, I had to squeeze between the pole and the ceiling. I squeezed, and had to squeeze just enough to literally get stuck. Basically I went past my ribs, and when they expanded back into position, it was like sticking a tape measure in the back of your crap drawer. You can't get it back open. I couldn't get unstuck.

I was having a really hard time breathing because of the pressure on my diaphragm, and I couldn't go the other way because that would end with a 3o foot fall. I thought that I might have to call someone to come and help me out. I was trying not to panic, but then I realized that I left my cell phone downstairs. OK, now I was really trying not to panic! I was in trouble. If I didn't get out of there, I was probably going to suffocate.

So that is of course when the desperate measures come in: prayer, some screaming for help, and finally the resolve to get out no matter what the consequences. So I went for it, and it hurt like hell! Basically I had to push my ribs in, and drag myself out. After about a minute of struggle, I was finally free, but my ribs and sternum were really bruised, and are still hurting today. I don't think that I cracked a rib, but I came pretty close. I am certainly thanking God that I was able to get out.

So I limped downstairs, and sat down and sweated on the console a bit while I did some of the programming. I got finished at about 11 PM Saturday night. All in all, I spent about 45 hours doing the install from Thursday through Saturday.

Then I did a show Sunday night where I loaded in and out a sound rig. It went really well, but that combined with the install and the Sunday service pretty much wore me out. I defiantly was appreciative that Monday was a day off, and that is what I did. After a few ibuprofen and a couple of XX with a lime, I was good to go!


  1. Glad to hear you're not suffocated or a big ugly splat on the stage.

  2. XX and lime will cure about anything that ails ya.

  3. Wow Rock, that is insane, I probably would have cried...no sobbed! Glad you are okay and hey I bet the lighting is fab too!!


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